It took two years, but college coaches have finally used the substitution rule.
At least five teams – Cal, Campbell, Tennessee, Navy and St. Mary's – have made a substitution before the second round of regional play.
Most interesting is California, the No. 2 seed in the Raleigh, N.C. regional. The Golden Bears got off to a slow start, sitting in 11th place and already eight shots off the top-5 cut line. Head coach Walter Chun swapped out Ben Doyle, whose 4-over 75 on Monday was dropped, in favor of Finigan Tilly.
The top five teams after 54 holes of stroke-play qualifying advance to the NCAA Championship. None of the teams that made a change were inside the top 11 after the opening round.
The sub rule had been kicked around for years but became a more pressing issue at the 2016 NCAA Championship, where Texas star Beau Hossler injured his shoulder and couldn't compete in the final match. Unable to replace him, the Longhorns conceded Hossler’s match, and they lost the championship to Oregon by a point.
The sub rule was enacted for match play at last year’s championship, and this fall it was announced that it would expand into not just NCAA stroke play but also regionals. The substitution can be made for any reason, from attitude to performance to injury or illness.
Women’s coaches do not yet have the option to substitute players. It could have made a difference last week at the NCAA regional in Austin, Texas, where several players and coaches suffered from a mysterious virus.
East Carolina was disqualified from advancing because only two players were healthy enough to compete in the second round. Baylor also was a player down in the final round, but the Bears were able to post four solid scores to move on to the NCAA Women’s Championship, which begins Friday at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.